The Smugglers was the first story of Doctor Who’s season 4 broadcast schedule, but the last story of the season 3 production block. Like Robot and Terror of the Zygons after it, it was a story that was “held over” from one season to the next in order to give the production team a little bit of a “cushion” against the pressures of production.
It was narratively notable for being Ben and Polly’s first journey in the TARDIS, and furthers the development of their characters as opposites to each other. While The War Machines had depicted Ben as sullen and Polly as vibrant, The Smugglers establishes Ben as a skeptic and Polly as a believer. In the same way as it takes Ben a significant time in The Power of the Daleks to admit that the Second Doctor is in fact the Doctor, here he takes the better part of episode one to believe that he’s traveled back in time. At the same time, it also showed the way in which the two characters could effectively work together to solve problems.
The story also contains an unusual amount of coarse violence, which resulted in the only surviving clips of the serial. The ABC took exceptions to a few scenes and edited them out — and then preserved those editsrather than broader episodes. So although it is mostly missing, a tiny flavor of the production has been retained. Additionally, the fact that the production unusually featured actual location filming in Cornwall attracted the enthusiasm of at least one amateur filmmaker. Footage exists of some of the location work, giving modern fans a further glimpse into the costuming and make-up of the serial.
Despite the fact that The Smugglers was a ratings failure and is ill-remembered by modern audiences, it was given a boost by the BBC Walesteam in 2011. It was elevated to the status of a loose sequel to The Curse of the Black Spot, since it tells the story of how the Black Albatross — crewed by Avery’s former mates — went looking for the gold and treasure that Avery was hauling in the Fancy.
Episode 1 (Lost)
The Doctor is shocked and angry to discover Ben and Polly inside the TARDIS, as they innocently try to return a TARDIS key. Ben and Polly are confused and doubtful about the Doctor’s stories of time travel and his lack of control of this machine. The Doctor bars Ben from touching the controls and, on landing, shows them the scanner and tells them not to leave until he has run his checks. Bemused, they obey him.
They are shocked to leave the TARDIS and find themselves in a cave adjacent to an ocean beach. The Doctor says he cannot take them back to London, which Ben takes as a refusal. Polly is excited about these events, but Ben is anxious to get back to his Navy barracks. They go along a path up the cliffs in search of a bus or train, but the Doctor is worriedly amused at the prospect of convincing his new companions where and “when” they might be. Polly suspects that they may be in Cornwall.
Ben spots a church at the top of the cliffs, and the Doctor guesses they may have arrived sometime after the sixteenth century, but before the Victorian period. As they look around, a man with a flint-lock pistol in his hand accosts the three travelers, mistaking Polly (in her 1960’s trouser-suit) for a boy. The Doctor is able to convince him that they are innocent travelers, and asks him to direct them to a place of shelter. He introduces himself as Joseph Longfoot, the churchwarden, yet is still suspicious, and asks if they know Avery or Pike. The Doctor insists that he doesn’t and, in order to gain more trust, resets the churchwarden’s dislocated finger. The grateful man directs them to an inn and warns the three to keep to themselves there, and also entrusts the Doctor with a riddle: “This is Deadman’s secret key, Ringwood, Smallbeer, Gurney.” The Doctor is confused, but as a storm is coming on, the travelers depart. Ben and Polly want to go back to the TARDIS but are precluded by the high tide. After the churchwarden retires inside, a large, muscular sailor emerges from behind a tombstone and goes inside the church.
Jacob Kewper, landlord of the inn, sends stable boy Tom to give a message to the churchwarden regarding a “delivery” expected soon. Soon, the Doctor and friends, soaked from the rain, arrive at the inn to an unfriendly, suspicious welcome from Kewper. They are told that the inn is full, but when they mention Longfoot, Jacob becomes more accommodating.
A drunken Longfoot is confronted by a sailor named Cherub, who calls the churchwarden an old shipmate of the Black Albatross. Cherub has come for knowledge of Captain Avery’s gold. Sobered, Longfoot refuses to give up knowledge of the gold. Cherub asks who the old man and his two lads (Ben and Polly) were, suspicious they may be involved in some way. Cherub kills Longfoot, and decides to pursue the three travellers.
Tom reports back to Kewper about Longfoot’s death, and is sent out to fetch the squire. Cherub, now with three sailors, finds the Doctor and his companions at the inn and threatens them, demanding more information. Cherub grabs the Doctor, and Ben is knocked out after attempting to intervene. The men kidnap the Doctor and haul him into a cart. Polly calls for Kewper, who attempts to calm Polly and says the squire will sort everything out, though this doesn’t stop Polly from worrying about the Doctor. The squire arrives, but instead of helping Polly find the Doctor, he questions the strangers about their origins and demands information.
Cherub and the cart arrive at the coast, where the Doctor is put on a small rowboat and rowed out to sea. When Ben comes to, he and Polly refuse to give any information as to their origins. The squire, suspecting them to be guilty of the murder of Longfoot, arrests them.
Cherub and the Doctor arrive on the Black Albatross, where they are led into the Captain’s quarters. The captain introduces himself as Captain Pike. When Cherub says the Doctor will not speak, Pike slams his hook on the table and says he will be forced to tell what he knows.
Episode 2 (Lost)
Pike reveals that Longfoot, Cherub, and himself were all shipmates under the now deceased Captain Avery. He accuses Longfoot of stealing Avery’s gold, stating that the plunder rightfully belongs to the trio. Pike believes that the Doctor is somehow embroiled in the plot, and Cherub begs Pike to allow him to torture the Doctor.
Ben and Polly find themselves in the village Gaol, guarded by Tom. Ben is distraught, still eager to report back to his ship in the 1960s whilst Polly seems caught up in the adventure — until she sees a rat. They are unable to convince Tom that there are other strangers in town (Cherub and the sailors were unseen by other inn patrons) and that it was they who killed Longfoot. Polly hits upon the idea of exploiting the superstitions of the locals to try to escape.
Jacob Kewper locks up the inn, heads to the harbour, and rows out towards the Black Albatross.
The Doctor appeals to Pike as a “gentleman,” and bargains to be treated more civilly. He states that if he helps them, he should receive a share of the treasure. After they toast over wine, Jamaica enters to inform Pike about a row boat approaching. The Doctor is brought to the galley for food and wine whilst Cherub is sent to meet the visitor.
Ben and Polly make a straw doll, and Polly, or “Paul” as Ben refers to her, pretends to be in a trance. The couple scare Tom into thinking that the Doctor is a warlock and that they are apprentices. Ben convinces Tom that Polly has been possessed by the Doctor and has made a voodoo doll that controls Tom and that the only way to free him from this jeopardy is to release them from prison. Ben and Polly decide to investigate the church for any evidence regarding Longfoot’s death.
Kewper is brought before the Captain to discuss business, having bribed Cherub. Kewper reveals that he, Longfoot, and the squire are smugglers. Pike, in turn, threatens Kewper by revealing his true name, and that he and his men killed the churchwarden; Kewper trembles at being before Pike. Pike and Cherub leave to find the squire, preferring to do business directly with him, suspecting that it may be a trap. The Doctor is brought back, and he and Kewper are guarded by Jamaica.
Ben and Polly venture into the church crypt and try to work out the circumstances of Longfoot’s murder, to no avail. As they give up and decide to find the TARDIS, one of the tombs opens to reveal a secret passage, and they hide as a cloaked man emerges. Ben knocks him out and ties him up. Polly decides this may be the murderer, and goes to find the squire to show him and prove their innocence. Soon, the bound man tells Ben he is Josiah Blake, the king’s revenue officer. The passageway is further evidence against the churchwarden and the smugglers whom Blake is trying to arrest. Ben is pleased to hear the passage leads to the beach, and leaves a protesting Blake to investigate.
Pike and Cherub visit the squire, planning to get information about the smugglers’ stash. The squire unwittingly reveals the church to be a relay point, but before they can talk further, Polly is dragged in by a manservant, and is horrified when she recognizes Cherub.
Kewper, regretting his decision, tells the Doctor what has happened to his friends, and the danger the village is in from Pike and his men. The Doctor plans to escape, but when asked how he plans to do so, the Doctor loudly asks Kewper if he wants to play cards.
Meanwhile, the squire and his new friends have heard Polly’s story, but Pike has twisted the story in his favour. The only thing Polly’s story has done is confirm they were the last people to see Longfoot alive — further aiding the story of their guilt. The men decide to visit the crypt to see who Ben has captured, suspecting it might be a revenue officer.
Ben has returned after discovering that the passage leads back to where the TARDIS is, but his joy is cut short as the squire, with Pike and Cherub, arrives, gun in hand, along with their prisoner, Polly, who has been bound and gagged.
Episode 3 (Lost)
Ben recognizes Cherub as well, but Pike dismisses his accusations. Blake calls out and is released after the three villains decide he is not an immediate threat and, in fact, can be used to their advantage. Blake is convinced by them to take Ben and Polly into custody as suspected smugglers.
On the ship, the Doctor tells Kewper’s fortune using playing cards, watched by a curious Jamaica. Jamaica asks for his fortune to be told, and Kewper uses the distraction to knock him out. The Doctor and Kewper decide to go to the squire to tell him of the innocence of Ben and Polly, and the presence of Pike.
Outside in the graveyard, Pike and Cherub flatter the squire into revealing a tomb that contains one of the smugglers’ stashes of booty. He and Pike arrange to meet the next night, and fires will be lit for signal. Cherub overhears and heads off on his own. Pike and the squire go off to discuss payment.
Blake has forced Ben and Polly to the stables at the inn where, to their surprise, he removes Ben’s ropes and gag, saying he would rather trust their word than the squire’s, and Ben unties Polly. Blake says he suspects the squire, but has no proof against him, and hopes to gather enough men to prevent what he believes will be a transaction in the next night or two. The Doctor meets up with them, to the huge relief of Ben and Polly, but Kewper is known to Blake. Upon seeing Blake, Kewper suspects he has been lured into a trap by the Doctor and leaves, but is pursued by Blake.
Pike is enraged at Jamaica for the escape of the Doctor and Kewper, and Jamaica tells him they went to see the squire. Pike decides to move the plan ahead and to do it during day time so as to surprise the squire. One group will collect the smugglers’ stash, while he and Cherub will hunt for Avery’s gold. Pike kills Jamaica for his foolishness but finds that Cherub seems to have left the ship.
When the Doctor tells Blake about Pike’s plans and surmises that he will also sack and burn the village, Blake departs to gather men and arms. The Doctor is glad to hear of the passage to the TARDIS from the church crypt, but insists that they stay to try to prevent the destruction of the village. Knowing the clue to Avery’s gold, the Doctor leads his friends back to the church, hoping to locate the treasure as a bargaining chip. As Tom watches them go, Cherub emerges from hiding and threatens him to tell where they are heading.
The squire is horrified to hear from Kewper about his playing into Pike’s hands, but on hearing of Avery’s gold, they decide to find it themselves. Knowing that Pike and his men will head for their stash, they aim to lay a trap for them by placing armed men on the route that the squire handed to Pike. They ride off towards the church to seek the gold.
The Doctor, Ben and Polly are searching the graveyard for clues, but eventually realize the riddle reveals names on tombstones, and they head to the crypt. Ben shows them the secret passageway entrance, then they find markers for Ringwood, Smallbeer, and Gurney — three names from the rhyme. The Doctor thinks it would be more helpful if there were four names.
The squire and Kewper arrive to discover the church door ajar, and hope that it is the Doctor rather than Pike and his men. The Doctor is about to reveal the answer to the riddle but Kewper bursts in and threatens violence. The squire bristles at this and wants to work with the Doctor. As the two argue, Cherub enters secretly and his knife flies through the air and meets Kewper’s back, while a shot from his pistol rings out as Polly screams.
Episode 4 (Lost)
The squire has been wounded by Cherub’s shot, and Cherub demands the secret of Avery’s gold. Polly insists on helping the squire, but while Cherub seems to agree, he grabs her and holds his pistol to her head threatening to shoot unless the Doctor shares the riddle.
Meanwhile, Blake is still riding towards the militia outpost.
The Doctor, playing for time, reveals the rhyme told to him by Longfoot. Cherub recognizes the four names as members of Avery’s crew — he reveals the fourth name to be Deadman. The squire recalls Avery’s curse and regrets having pursued the treasure.
Pike and his men land in force, and Pike sends one man to find Cherub. Pike goes to the church, his men following, and opens the sarcophagus containing the silks, spices, and rum of the smugglers’ stash. His men begin hauling the goods to the shore as Pike enters the church.
Blake has finally collected his force, and they are on the way back to the village.
Pike finds Cherub holding the Doctor and friends along with the Squire, and confronts him about deserting the ship. Cherub says he did all this for the captain, which Pike finds dubious. Cherub raises his gun to Pike but it is quickly parried, and the two duel with cutlasses.
Outside, the crew are becoming ill ordered and start helping themselves to rum, and crewman Gaptooth tries to restore order. He sends two crew members back to the shore for their behaviour.
Using the fight as a distraction, the Doctor sends Ben and Polly down the secret passage while he waits for Blake. Pike is eventually victorious, and runs Cherub through. He turns to the Doctor who offers Pike a new agreement to reveal where the gold is.
Meanwhile, the two crewmembers on the beach find the cave, the TARDIS, and the entrance to a tunnel.
The Doctor offers to take no treasure, so long as the village is spared, and the squire is moved. Pike says he must keep his crew “happy,” and resists. The squire argues that Pike seems to find it difficult to keep control of his crew, and goads him into proving their obedience and his command.
In the tunnel, almost at the TARDIS, Polly injures her foot, but insists that Ben return to fetch the Doctor.
Blake and his men sight the church, and divide into two groups: one will head to the church, the other will take the passage from the beach to the crypt.
The Doctor finds the fourth name on a tombstone and Pike is incredulous as all four men died at sea. The names, says the Doctor, were changed by the churchwarden, and a flagstone is at the intersection of the four names. Pike removes the slab and, reaching deep inside, discovers the treasure. As he does so, gunshots are heard outside. The pirates, drunk with rum, are easily overtaken by Blake’s men, while others retreat into the church.
Polly is attacked by the two sailors and tries to escape back into the tunnel. She is caught, but Ben hears what’s going on and is able to overtake one of them as the sailor approaches. He finds Polly and fights the second man as Blake’s men arrive; Blake shoots the sailor, killing him. As his men flood the tunnel, Ben follows Blake whilst Polly returns to the TARDIS.
There is pandemonium in the crypt as Blake’s men fight the pirates. Pike grasps at the treasure, then threatens the Doctor for leading him into a trap. Ben, Blake and his men arrive and take to the fight. Ben tries to take the Doctor away, but he insists on helping the squire. The squire has enough strength to help fend off Pike’s hook as Blake fires the fatal shot, ending Pike. Ben and the Doctor slip away whilst the squire is aided by Blake. He regrets never being able to thank Doctor.
Finding Polly, the three enter the TARDIS and leave. Suddenly, the interior of the ship is freezing cold, and the Doctor announces they have arrived at the coldest place in the world.